Recently my Congressional office has received a large number of phone calls expressing concern about today’s budget resolution (S.Con.Res 3), which I supported. A lot of inaccurate information has been circulating around this issue, and I wanted to take some time to briefly clarify this process.
Today’s vote was on a stripped-down budget resolution for Fiscal Year 2017. This initial vote opens up the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as “Obamacare,” for much-needed reforms and possible repeal. Today’s vote does not repeal the ACA. Today’s vote will not kick anyone off their chosen insurance plan. Today’s vote does not limit Medicare or Medicaid options. The vote today was the start of a process to fix the health insurance system, repeal what doesn’t work, and reform the system so more people aren’t priced out of the market.
Since it was enacted in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has failed to live up to its own promises. Without fundamental reform it will crumble under its own weight. Today’s procedural vote opens up the process to real reform after more than six years of failed attempts to make the ACA work. Americans were told that premiums under the ACA would fall by $2,500. Yet for 2017 alone, premiums will increase for New Yorkers an average of 16.6% for individual plans and 8.3% for small-group plans. Individuals nationwide have received cancellation notices from insurance companies, lost doctors that they liked, and have been forced to purchase unaffordable plans that contain unneeded or unwanted mandatory coverage provisions. The current framework of the ACA has failed to lower costs, and will continue to make healthcare less affordable.
The next step in the process is known as “reconciliation.” A total of four Congressional committees, two in the House and two in the Senate, will now review the Affordable Care Act over the coming weeks. These four committees will draft a reconciliation bill – which is sent to the Budget Committee on which I sit. This legislation will likely repeal certain portions of the Affordable Care Act and will set up a stable transition to patient-centered reforms. Once both the House and Senate pass this legislation – expected in February – it will go to the President for his signature. Next, the House and Senate will get to work on enacting reforms to the healthcare insurance system which will likely allow purchase of insurance across state lines, return much regulatory authority back to the states where it has traditionally resided, while at the same time making sure that ACA provisions guaranteeing purchase of insurance for those with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26 are continued. At the same time, the Department of Health and Human Services will be taking actions to stabilize insurance markets and allow insurers to design health plans which are flexible to meet needs, particularly for small groups. Since most people receive their insurance through their employers, such reforms are critical.
Let me be clear: Reform and replacement of the ACA will take place over the next few years and only after full congressional debate and public input. I will fight to keep the portions of the ACA that are working, and will dedicate myself to fixing the portions of the law which are not. My main focus during this multiphase process will be working toward guaranteeing access to consistent, stable, and affordable healthcare for all Americans.